we continue to unpack boxes and spend much of our time looking for things we've unpacked and put away in places that are unfamiliar to us. yesterday, though, we spent the day traveling to, attending, and returning from my uncle's funeral. he was the last in our family of the generation that preceded ours. our parents and all their siblings are now gone. my dad's brother celebrated his 100th birthday last february and was in good health then. in may he came down with the flu, then with pneumonia, and he didn't have the strength to recover. his passing marked the end of an era, making my generation the elders of the family.
his funeral was held in the cemetery where he is to be buried beside his wife and son. as we set in the covered pavilion open on all sides to the beautiful trees in the cemetery, i thought about how fitting the site was. my uncle loved the outdoors. he had carried on the family tradition of operating a sawmill and was an expert on every kind of tree that is native to this part of the country. the views of the leaves rustling in the gentle breeze reminded me of how he had lived his life, as had my dad, his father, and his father's father and generations before them.
as the minister spoke the usual words of comfort, assuring those present that my uncle was now reunited with loved ones that have gone before, i wondered whether those words are true. i'm not content to take scattered passages of the bible about life after death and resurrection as literal truth. it doesn't worry me that i may not spend eternity with my parents and grandparents wandering around a city with gold-paved streets after passing through gates made of pearl. i can't accept that anyone can speak with authority about what happens after our bodies take their last breaths. i'm content to wait for whatever may happen.
i want to believe that there is something for us after this life is over, but i'm more concerned with what happens now. what's important is how i live my life in the present; the future can take care of itself. i hope that i get a chance to improve on the failings of my present life, but my greatest hope is that i will live a good life in the here and now, a life filled with loving-kindness and compassion. i hope that each day i will live more skillfully than i did the day before. i hope that when i pass i will leave a legacy of having made life better for those my life touched. i hope that i will live on in the memories of others and that those memories will be good ones, just as my memories of my uncle are.
may each of us live fully in the present, unconcerned about what happens after this life is over. may our hearts be open to all of life's experiences and may we rejoice in the gift of each breath we take. may our troubles be transient, tinged with the joy of living mindfully. may we love and be loved. shalom.